City planners refuse to defer to Islington on school site

The plans include a school building and tower block of social housing units.

THE City’s planning committee will have its say on a controversial application for a primary school and 14-storey social housing development next to the Golden Lane Estate despite a last-minute “ambush” to hand planning powers over Islington council.

Both the City and Islington have planning authority over the site of the former Richard Cloudesley School, and have teamed up on plans for the 420-pupil City of London Primary Academy Islington (COLPAI) and a 66-unit housing block.

The application was set to be heard by both local authorities in the coming weeks following two rounds of consultations that have yielded more than 130 objections from residents, as well as statements of support from COLPAI parents concerned about the impact of delays on the school.

One possible route of determination for the application would be for the City to defer to Islington as most of the site falls within its boundaries, with only part of the school’s hall within the Square Mile.

But the City’s planning committee has determined it will have a say on the scheme, rejecting a motion by chief planning officer Annie Hampson earlier this week.

The motion, which was added to Monday’s planning committee agenda late on Friday afternoon, suggested the City play an advisory role in the application process, but ultimately cede any decision-making powers to streamline the process of determining cross-boundary schemes.

The suggestion outraged the Golden Lane Estate Residents’ Association (GLERA), which wrote to committee members over the weekend imploring them to vote against it on the grounds that City residents were most directly affected by the plans.

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The plans include a school building and tower block of social housing units.

In the email, seen by City Matters, GLERA’s sub-committee chair Charles Humphries said delegating power “abandons responsibility for people in the City of London”.

“Will Islington councillors have the same regard for residents in the City of London as our own councilmen? It seems very unlikely.”

Mr Humphries also questioned why the decision to delegate powers was being “rushed through” 48 hours before the meeting when the application had been lodged six months ago, a concern raised by Bassishaw councillor Graeme Harrower in speaking against the motion.

“That seems to me like an ambush,” he said. “The whole point of the planning function is how it affects others. The City residents are going to be most affected by this, therefore the question should be why shouldn’t Islington be deferring to us?”

Cripplegate councillor Sue Pearson pointed out that there were 80 City flats less than 20 metres from the site, while Islington’s residents were positioned further away and therefore would not be as directly impacted.

Officers maintained there was nothing “untoward” about the motion, and that it was being brought to the fore ahead of Islington’s planning authority determining the application on 1 March. A date has not yet been announced for the City to deliberate the application.